Don't Torture a Duckling (1972)

a.k.a Non si sevizia un paperino (ITA)
Tomas Milian and Barbara Bouchet star in Lucio Fulci's grim and realistic Giallo thriller. Blue Underground US R0 DVD release.

The Film

In a small village in rural Italy, some boys are playing. When one of them disappears, the press flock to the town as a massive search is carried out of the local area. A man phones up to ask for a ransom on the boy's life, but he is arrested and leads them to the body. The townspeople rise up against him, but he turns out to be an innocent man. After another body is found, the police become baffled as to the motive and identity of the killer. City journalist Andrea (Tomas Milian) who is reporting from the town decides to stay on and investigate the case himself.

Co-written by Gianfranco Clerici (New York Ripper (1982)) and Roberto Gianviti (Lizard in a Woman's Skin (1971)), Don't Torture a Duckling has a completely different atmosphere to many of the other Giallo films that became popular during the 1970s. Gone is the surrealism and light comedy - instead we get a very straight forwardly presented, grim thriller that borders on neo-realism in places, with a very realistic look at small village life in rural Italy - it is this realism rather than gory effects that make the child murders so shocking and convincing.

As a Giallo mystery, it works very well, with a series of potential suspects and a fully plausible conclusion - it manages a fair balance between being able to identify the killer from the clues given, and yet remaining unpredictable. Although the narrative is generally straight forward, it does make use of some flashbacks and voice-over narration that help to clarify a few scenes. A number of very interesting themes arise in the story, most notable is the villianisation of people who are charged with a crime, even if they are never convicted. A curious hint of paedophilia from an older woman helps to give the film an additional, uncomfortable edge. The pacing is quite slow but the film never drags, and it builds up to a superb climax from a scripting perspective, grippingly tense and emotional - sadly it is let down by some noticably poor special effects, made rather annoying by the fact that they were completely unnecessary.

Fulci's direction is generally strong here, helping to capture this sunny small-town setting and giving the film its all important atmosphere. The gory effects for which he would become synonymous do crop up in a particularly savage, and Fulci trademark whipping sequence, as well as during the film's dramatic finalé - unfortunately the effects in this latter scene look particularly poor and really detract from what should have been a superb climactic ending. Why they chose not to replace these shots with some more long shots during editing remains baffling. A light Riz Orlandi soundtrack gives the film a good backing, particularly with the use of contemporary popular music during one of the film's most brutal sequences.

Actor Tomas Milian had made his name in the late 1960s with a series of Spaghetti Western roles, and will always be remembered as the Mexican peasant in the Sergio Sollima trilogy, and in Sergio Corbucci's comic Companeros (1970). However he did appear in many more serious films, including Lucio Fulci's highly rated period work Beatrice Cenci (1969), and here he gives a very good, if rather understated performance as a reporter. The stunningly attractive Barbara Bouchet is very effectively cast as the curious Patrizia, managing to make her role convincing, and inject it with some suitable menace. There are a selection of other familiar faces, and some generally good performances all round.

Well written and acted, and boasting some solid direction from Lucio Fulci, Don't Torture a Duckling is certainly one of the most serious, and probably one of the most effective Giallo films ever made, perfectly balancing the conclusion to be both surprising, yet entirely plausible. It is only a pity that the climax is ruined by some horribly inept special effects, that even a casual viewer would find distacting. Anyone looking to explore Lucio Fulci's non-horror works will do well to start here, and it is an essential part of any Giallo collection. Recommended.

In brief:

Anyone famous in it? Tomas Milian, a Euro-cult star, who made his name in Spaghetti Westerns, including Run, Man, Run (1966)
Directed by anyone interesting? Lucio Fulci - the cult favourite horror director, responsible for such films as Zombi 2 (1979) and Murder Rock (1984), but many other films as well, including the bizarre Sword and Scorcery Conquest (1983).
Any gore/violence? A gory murder.
Any sex? A short nude scene.
Who is it for?
Fans of Fulci and Giallo films should certainly pick this up.


Visuals Original Aspect Ratio  - 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour.
Picture quality is decent, there is little print damage. However it is very grainy, and there are noticable compression artifacts.
Audio English mono - sounds okay.
Subtitles None.
Extras The disc includes:
  • Lucio Fulci biography
      Region Region 0 (ALL) - PAL
      Other regions? Previously available on an identical disc from Anchor Bay USA, and in a dual-pack with City of the Living Dead (1981). Also available on DVD in Italy, with no English options.
      Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. The print used is English language.



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      All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 8th December 2007.
      Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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